In the Tantric tradition, sexual energy is symbolized as a coiled serpent (kundalini). In most people, the serpent is asleep – it is said that her face points downward. The small bit of awakening that is there is at the lowest level and is seen in the animal enjoyment of sex. Tantric practices aim to awaken this kundalini, causing her face to point upward and the energy to ascend through the cakras (energy centers) and up the susumna nadi (central channel located on the inside wall of the spine), finally reaching Siva (her consort) at the crown of the head. The rising up of kundalini is a metaphor for the process of the transmutation of the sex energy from the level of gross enjoyment to the level of being in union with the Divine.
Observing Our Energy and Attitudes:
When we restrict sex just to the physical level, this causes a drain in one’s energy. This is most visible in a man, post ejaculation. Men often become very tired and are visibly exhausted after having lost their seed. The energy that could be used to bring tremendous power is, in a sense, wasted. The Kaula-sadhana of sex was devised to address this problem and learn how to infuse and elevate the sex energy so that it could be utilized in the best possible way.
There are two important attitudes the participants must cultivate: the feeling of reverence toward the sex act and a feeling of love toward the sex partner. In fact, the Kaula ritual sets up a whole environment to help cultivate these feelings. Tantrism advocates the practice of seeing sex as something that is holy and divine. The same attitude is to be cultivated toward the sexual partner. A man should look upon a woman as an incarnation of the divine Sakti and the woman should regard the man as Siva. This attitude is an antidote to the thought that sex is somehow sinful. The practice of integrating the spiritual with the sexual can help release old ideas of Puritanism and ingrained negative thoughts about this most natural, and beautiful, human act.
What Tantra Is Not:
On the other hand, it is important to be very clear that Tantra does not advocate hedonism. Self-indulgence and self-gratification are neither the goal nor the means of reaching the goal. As it is written in the scriptures of Kashmir Shaivism, “The aim of the Tantric sadhana is the sublimation of sex, and changing ones’ attitude toward sex from shame to holiness is the first step. The two evils, so to speak, are either hating sex and seeing it as sinful or using it for complete self-gratification“. On that note I would like to add that even when a partner says they enjoy bringing intense pleasure to their lover, this is still a self-gratifying act, because ultimately it adds to the ego’s fixation.
In the Kaula-sadhana the actual sex act is done not for enjoyment, but as an offering to the deity – not for sexual gratification, but as an actual spiritual act. It is the physical enactment of joining as one the polarities we perceive as masculine and feminine. One could not exist without the other; an ultimate state of union with all that is can be immediately attained. The Kularnava Tantra, which speaks in-depth of the Kaula-sadhana, clarifies, If by merely having sexual intercourse with a woman one could become liberated, then all the creatures of the world would be liberated through the sex act.
Now we can begin to understand the meaning of the phallic worship handed down to us from the Tantrics. Even today, all over India, we see the ritual honoring of the Siva linga, which is for most regarded as the regenerative aspect of the material universe. It is in essence formless, although we often see a rounded, phallic sculpture made out of stone and at its base is Sakti. The woman participant in the ritualized sexual intercourse (maithuna) in the Kaula-sadhana is worshiped as the Goddess (devi).
The attitude that sex is holy and divine, as opposed to profane, is a very real characteristic of Tantra, or in this case, the left-hand tradition. But we can also find this attitude in the right-hand scriptures of the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads, where specific lines are given to describe God or Brahman as the libido that reproduces.
Triambika Ma Vive